If Chimps Can Do It . . .

I was reading an online article this week about scientists studying how chimpanzees communicate. For this particular study, researchers spent 750 hours observing chimps and analyzing their vocalizations.

What they found is that chimps indeed do “talk” to one another using a “variety of vocalizations, but also facial expressions and gestures.” Unsurprisingly, most of their discussions revolve around food and, in particular, favorite fruits and where they can be found.

I guess our simian friends talk about a lot of the same stuff we do! Can “Yelp for Chimpanzees” be far behind?

After reading the article, I got to thinking that for beings with such advanced language skills, we humans sure seem to have a lot of communications issues. Chief among them is the tendency of people NOT to say what they want or need and when they need it, especially in work settings.

I explored this topic in a blog nearly two years ago. Here’s that blog again. Enjoy!

BOM-If-Chimps-Can-Do-It

If You Need Something, Just Ask

(Originally posted on April 10, 2013)

I am often surprised when I hear people grumbling how they didn’t get something they wanted, only to find out from them later that they never really asked for it.

  • “I built this new Web site and all I really wanted was for people to contact me for a free consult.” (Well, did you actually ASK people to do that? Did you provide an easy mechanism for that to happen?)
  • “I really wanted this project done by Monday. But now I’m told by my team that I won’t get it until Wednesday morning at the earliest.”(When you requested the work to be done, did you state a deadline or any kind of timeframe requirement?)
  • “My boss asked me to complete this assignment. I thought he needed it, like, yesterday so I spent all weekend working on it. Now he tells me he doesn’t need it until next week. Can you believe that?” (When the assignment was made, did you ask when it was needed?)
  • “I am being asked to do the impossible. I have to write this article in three days and no one has filled me in with any of the particulars about the history or the people involved.”(Cat got your tongue? If you know you don’t have the information you need, why not ask for it?)

These examples might seem extreme, but in my experience, they are quite common. For whatever reasons, people tend NOT to say what they want/need and when they need it. Will asking make them look bad or foolish? Will asking make others uncomfortable? Or are they just fearful of getting an answer they won’t like, such as “I need it before you leave for the day” or “I can’t do it”?

It’s easy to stay quiet. You don’t make waves or ruffle feathers that way, at least to begin with, but eventually, the dangers of not asking catch up to you. Plus “not asking” has a bit of a passive/aggressive feel to me:

  • When you’re asked to do/complete something that’s unrealistic and you don’t push back, are you really just looking for a reason to grumble to others about the request or person making the request?
  • When you ask someone to do something but don’t provide enough information or context or even a deadline, are you really just afraid you’ll hear something you don’t want to hear (such as “It can’t be done”) or worse yet, are you looking for a reason to criticize someone else’s performance or lack thereof?

Asking should be simple . . . and it is. I believe we all perform better and feel better when we know the rules and the expectations. To that end, ask about what you don’t know and ask for what you need. That way both “asker” and “askee” lessen any chance of harboring unrealistic expectations and making unrealistic promises.

Here are some rules of thumb:

  • If you make a request of another person to do something for you (whether it’s business-oriented or a personal request) include a timeframe and be specific. You’re not being aggressive or overbearing if you do. It just makes good sense.
  • If you are on the receiving end of a request or make a commitment to someone else not knowing when it needs to be done—in an hour, this afternoon, next week, or the proverbial “yesterday”—or not knowing all the particulars, shame on you. Don’t say you can do something, knowing that you can’t deliver.
  • If you need more time to do good work, ask for more time. If more time can’t be granted because of a hard-and-fast deadline, suggest alternatives for what can be done NOW, within the timeframe, to satisfy the core requirement, and what can be done longer-term. This way, you satisfy the client/friend/family member’s immediate need while gaining additional time to fulfill the request for the long-term . . . and neither of you gets too stressed out.

These rules of thumb can apply to your personal life as well. Maybe a child, spouse, or friend has asked for something for school, work, or the home that you simply can’t get delivered on time, you don’t have time for, or that’s out of your price range. Are there alternatives that will satisfy the immediate need (“need” in this case is not the same as “want”), while you try to fulfill the want more long-term?

For example, let’s say your 15-year-old niece really wants to go to the mall because she needs to get something for school or the big dance that’s tomorrow, after which she’d really like to get dropped off at a friend’s house or go out to grab a bite (after all, you’re already out, aren’t you?). So she asks you to drive her because Mom and Dad are busy. You, on the other hand, have already made personal commitments to others for that same time period, and frankly it’s lots of driving and lots of gas money, and your niece is not in a position where she can chip in (nor do you feel comfortable asking her).

What are you to do?

Instead of stating a flat-out “No” (which would perturb your niece and make dear-old “Unkie” persona non-grata) and instead of sucking it up with a “Yes” and a smile (which would make you break promises you made to others and stress you/them out), offer your niece an alternative. Maybe you can bring her to the mall. It’s on the way or nearby, plus that’s what she really needs, while the rest (friend’s house and/or food) are really just extras or “wants.” She’ll get something (trip to the mall), you’ll get something (you get to keep your commitments, make your niece happy, plus keep the gas needle off “E”) . . . and it all starts by asking a simple question, “I can’t do all of that, but what if we do this instead?”

What has your experience been when you’ve asked instead of assumed? Conversely, how has NOT asking affected you personally? Professionally? (See how easy it is to ask.)

Share your answers here.

Top 10 Funny Monkey Videos Compilation (2014)

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What Can Your Taxes Teach You? Business 101?

Inevitably, once the NFL playoffs hit, individuals, married couples, small business owners, and corporate financial types start hauling out the previous year’s receipts, bank statements, and other tax records.

It’s a sure sign that tax season has arrived: W2s and 1099s and Mortgage Interest statements are crossing in the mail; numbers are getting crunched and then crunched again in hopes of different outcomes; and tax preparers are bracing for the inevitable race to the April 15 finish line, wishing that this year—just for once—their always last-minute clients wouldn’t be quite so last minute this time around.

BOM What Taxes Teach You

An interesting wrinkle this year is that the IRS has warned that taxpayers should expect lengthy waits on hold if they call with questions, and that we shouldn’t expect our refunds anytime soon—all due to agency budget cuts that reduced staffing levels and the ability of those left behind to respond in a timely manner. (You’d think with advances in automation and electronic filing, the system would be slicker and more efficient than ever. I guess not, and in the interest of not raising the ire of any IRS agents reading this blog, I’ll just leave it there. Safe to say, customer service does not appear to be a priority.)

A funny thing happens to me each year when I begin purging my files (electronic and physical) of receipts and various other tax records. As I work through the process of categorizing and itemizing, I can’t help but stop and reflect on each item, trying not only to remember what it is or was, and if it’s deductible, but why it was part of my year and what it represented to me, my family, or my business.

  • What were my intentions buying said item, or attending an event, or travelling to some networking event or tradeshow? Did I achieve my goals? Did I get my anticipated return on investment of time, energy, and money?
  • Did I do enough with my favorite charities? Could I have done more, and what was the result of what I did do?
  • Do my receipts for health expenses reflect good things or bad, or simply what can be expected of a man my age with a new wife and a new baby in the house? Were there surprises, and what does my 2014 experience bode for this year?
  • Did I put enough away for retirement? Better yet, did I put anything away for retirement?
  • Did I make my revenue goals or did I fall short? Am I gaining or losing? If the former, how can I keep it up. If the latter, what can I do differently?
  • Where did I go? Who did I entertain?
  • Did new business initiatives pay off? If so, did I toe the line on my 2014 plan, or did new opportunities arise throughout the year that reflect unplanned but warranted expenses (or the opposite)?
  • Are there patterns here that I can use to plan for 2015 and beyond?

Your tax records can tell you (quite literally) where you spend most of your time and money. They can paint a detailed picture of your life from year to year: what you bought, where you went, how much you earned, how much you put away for retirement, how healthy you were, what charities you donated to, who was dependent on you, and even more. As such, your tax records offer a glimpse at those things you deem most important.

Looking at your receipts and records, what do they reveal about your 2014 priorities? Did your expenditures reflect your values—those things that matter most to you—or do they tell a different story?

Examine your records closely. Think about the year that was vs. the year that could have been or the year you intended.

Are your intentions—what you want to do and get from your life and your work—aligned with your actions, how you actually expend your time and money?

If so, kudos to you. If not, why not? Are there opportunities for you to re-align spending habits and priorities so that next tax season your life’s picture is more in keeping with the one you hoped to paint?

Either way, celebrate your achievements—those planned and those that just happened—and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Also consider the challenges you, family members, or your business faced, and remember how you responded. Let any lessons learned influence future actions.

Chances are you’ll find that you accomplished much more than you remember or give yourself credit for . . . and, go figure, we all have the IRS to thank for this opportunity to look back before we look ahead. Happy tax season (85 days and counting until April 15,2015).

What did you learn in 2014?

Letterman Top 10 Tax Tips

TAX HELP—My sister, Trish Wright, has a new tax business: www.ameritaxca.com. She has owned and operated five “Liberty Taxes” and has now ventured out under her own name. She provides great tax assistance for all levels of business and general consumers, with a special focus on returns for those experiencing change, who might have all sorts of questions, and who want to feel comfortable in the process.

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Service Anyone?

It was “swearing-in time” in Washington DC this past week, as well as for state legislatures around the country. Newly-elected and returning senators and representatives smiled for the cameras, swore their oaths, and took their seats.

It was a fairly drama-free exercise, especially since it was a mid-term election cycle, meaning there was no Presidential inauguration.

Predictably, those interviewed talked of service to their constituents and service to their country, which, equally as predictable, got me to thinking about John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you“ inaugural speech from 1961.

A lot has changed in the 54 years since then, especially in Washington DC (or maybe it’s just that the veneer has been chipped away and we are better able to see how our government has always operated). Whatever the case, we can only wonder how sincere calls for duty and service are among our elected leaders. Do they mean what they say, or are their words hollow? Do they intend to serve us or simply serve themselves? I’m hopeful for the former, but suspect many will continue to focus on the latter.

Luckily, just because those in Washington DC and our state capitals choose to act one way does not mean we have to follow suit. In our homes, schools, churches, businesses, and communities, we can be of service to one another. All it takes is a willingness to give of yourself to others in ways big or small. It all adds up, and there is no lack of ways to serve.

Two years ago, on the occasion of the 2013 Presidential inauguration, I wrote a blog about service and how we can all pitch in to make a difference in our own ways. Here’s that blog again . . . and here’s to service! Enjoy.

Its Your ServeIt’s Your Serve

(Originally posted on January 23, 2013)

This week’s inauguration ceremonies got me thinking back to previous inauguration addresses, most notably newly-elected President John F. Kennedy’s address delivered some fifty-one years ago this week on the mall in Washington DC. While I wasn’t around at the time (and wouldn’t be for quite some time), I have read about and heard bits and pieces of the speech over the years. This is the speech where Kennedy spoke the now-famous words, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

What has always struck me about this speech is its focus on “service,” which runs throughout as a general theme, as though “service” is a duty of every American, as though America—and ultimately the world—could be and would be so much more if people were simply to focus on how they could serve their neighbors, their communities, their country.

If we were to apply the Pareto principle to service, we would conclude that 80% of the service contributions in this country come from just 20% of the population. Are you one of the 20%? What might this country be capable of if the number of contributors was 30%, 40% . . . more? The results might truly astound us.

What do I mean by service?

Service can come in many forms, including donating time, expertise, goods, and even money. Many serve by volunteering in their churches, schools, hospitals, and other community hotspots. Others serve by organizing events, such as races, walks for charity, bake sales, craft fairs, or facilitating support and mentoring groups of all kinds.

You name it, there is no lack of ways to serve, only those willing to serve.

Why would someone serve?

While some undoubtedly serve to get something in return (recognition, a pat on the back, the possibility of some future monetary gain), at its heart, serving is really more about giving back to the community. It’s about contributing to something that’s bigger than yourself, that’s more than right here, right now. It’s about paying it forward (see my related blogs, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize & Occupy Your Community: Charity Begins at Home) and (while this might sound hokey to some) it’s about doing the right thing.

How do people serve?

Big effort or small, everyone CAN serve. In fact, some of you may be serving already and not even realize it! Every time you coach a colleague or dispense advice to a friend, family member, or co-worker you are serving. You see “serving” isn’t only about contributing to community causes or donating money, it’s about being there for other people, the young and the old, and giving of yourself.

In addition to volunteering in traditional church, school, and community settings, here are examples of other ways you can serve:

  • Be a mentor to up-and-comers in your field of expertise. Sharing your knowledge and lessons learned is a great way to pay it forward.
  • Be active in networking groups. Truly give of yourself and your wealth of knowledge to help others find new jobs, new careers, new opportunities. You’ll be amazed at how being generous with your time spurs such behavior in others.
  • Arrange an event, such as a 5K run, walk, or school career day. Not only will the effort be cathartic for you, but you will get to know a great deal more about others and about your community in general.
  • Participate in your local school or city government.Instead of complaining about the state of affairs, do something about it by offering solutions.
  • Coach a sports or academic team, especially if your son or daughter is participating. Not only is this great community service, but a fantastic opportunity for some parent-child bonding.
  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter. There is something good for the soul about helping abused, sick, and abandoned animals get well and find loving homes.
  • Be a big brother/big sister. What better way to contribute to the future than to be there for a child? Whether it’s through the actual Big Brother/Big Sister program or other such programs, makes no difference—you taking the time to be there for a young person does.
  • Be a companion to elders at a nursing home, retirement community, veterans’ home, or private home. Too often, when it comes to service, we forget about those who served us. Many of our seniors wind up alone and neglected. Here’s a great way to be a friend and companion while also getting to bask in the wisdom of someone who’s been there and done it. Who knows, you might even learn something!

As you can see, the list of “service” opportunities could be endless. What I’ve found is that for those of us who think about serving but never get around to it, doing so is usually just a matter of overcoming inertia and making something happen rather than lack of desire. If nothing above, stirs your interest, talk to a friend, colleague, or someone you know who is active in the community. Be creative and curious. You’ll find something eventually. The important thing is that you do something.

Some of the ways I serve include working with San Diego Sports Innovators (http://www.sdsportinnovators.org) as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) mentoring three start-up companies, participation on the Board of Directors for Huntington’s Disease Society of America of San Diego (http://www.hdsasandiego.org), and participation on the Board of North County Alumni Association for the “War of the Roses” Valentine’s Volleyball Tournament to benefit HDSA-SD (http://www.facebook.com/events/117821341724301).

HDSA San Diego Chapter – Hope Gala 2014!

Like ever-expanding ripples that result from a pebble dropped in a pond (for related reading, see my “Pebbles” blog), when people serve, they make things better for their communities, their schools, their churches, and for everyone around them.

People who serve make a difference. How can you step up and make a difference in 2013 . . . and beyond?

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As Leader, the Buck Stops with You

One of my long-time brand “heroes” let me down over the holidays. No, it wasn’t the fact that the item I ordered didn’t make it in time for Christmas, though that was the case. Nor was it the fact that this long-time ecommerce vendor failed to plan adequately for the inevitable holiday deluge of orders. Nor did I think this vendor’s $25 win-back gift was too meager.

That wasn’t it at all.

What really let me down is that instead of just saying, “We screwed up. Sorry! How can we make it right?” this company’s founder and CEO, in a wordy email sent on Christmas Day to thousands of affected customers wrote that, essentially, “We screwed up, but it was not our fault.”

Instead of taking full responsibility for the problem, the CEO chose to blame others.

Barrel O Monkeyz Leadership

I’ll be the first to admit that things go wrong and stuff happens. Nobody and no situation is perfect. No one is infallible. But when you are the leader—and in this case the leader of a very popular, trendy brand founded in 2000 (which in this day-and-age is a lifetime ago), that has been featured in national and international media—ultimately the buck stops with you. Period.

Yes, I understand you tried your best, that demand exceeded expectations, and that your team—stretched thin as it was—literally scrambled to make it all work out (and nearly succeeded). I also understand that you were working with new vendors and new suppliers, and that not all of them met their contractual obligations to you, which caused most, if not all, of the problems.

I understand all of that . . .

But ultimately, as leader you are responsible. It’s your job to ensure that your number one asset (your team)—and I include in this not only your employees but also contractors, suppliers, and vendors—is up to the task. If they fail to deliver, it’s not their fault—it’s yours for failing to plan adequately and to vet them properly.

Further, you should never, ever air your organization’s dirty laundry so openly with the public. Internal failures should remain internal.

How would you like to work with a CEO so quick to throw his or her team under the bus? Would that motivate you to work harder or better in the future? This kind of public blame inevitably leads to team dissension, distrust, and disharmony . . . which doesn’t bode well for the future of this company if left unchecked.

Twitter’s CEO discusses winning management and leadership styles.

Will I give this vendor another shot? Probably. After all, doesn’t everybody deserve a second chance?

In the close to the email, the CEO told me to “rest assured the problem has been fixed.” I wonder, though, has it really?

I responded to the email, one senior level executive to another, expressing many of my sentiments outlined above. I urged the CEO to read my reply with an open mind. Why? Not because I was trying to show the CEO up or come off as preachy, but because I sincerely believe our biggest learnings come from failure (and failing fast in order to learn quickly from our mistakes) . . . and no CEO worth his or her own salt is ever too big or too successful to fail or to learn.

Here’s to hoping this CEO fails fast!

From senior execs at Twitter and Amazon and Threadless, to Facebook and Starbucks and countless others, leadership inspiration abounds . . . yet no one is immune to failure, not even yours truly at Barrel O’ Monkeyz. It’s how you respond to that failure that truly defines you as a leader.

Where will your leadership take you and your team in 2015?

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How Was Your 2014?

The end of another year is upon us, and a new one is about to begin.

How did 2014 treat you? How did you treat 2014?

Were you a wallflower, or did you join-in?

Sure, the world had its ups and downs, but for me, 2014 was fantastic: I got engaged, got married, welcomed baby Lee, and re-launched Barrel O’ Monkeyz with a new website, a new team, and renewed energy. For me, that kind of success starts with having good relationships, personally, professionally, and everything in-between.

Last year, I wrote a blog about networking, and specifically about networking around the holidays, what with the many opportunities to do so. Those who read this blog know that I am a big proponent of networking and building relationships . . . and what better way to do it than over dinner, over drinks, or at a party or event?

So, without further ado, enjoy that blog again. Here’s to continued networking success in 2015 and to peace and prosperity for all in the new year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Barrel O Monkeyz

“Glass of Wine” Networking

(Originally posted on January 7, 2014)

Did you attend a work party over the holidays, or get together with co-workers or colleagues to ring in the New Year? If you did, chances are you did more than spread some holiday cheer. Whether you know it or not, you were “networking”—either creating relationships important to your business, job, or personal life, or cementing them.

Recently when I was touting the power and efficacy of networking, someone asked me “Are you networking or just going out for drinks?”

“Good question,” I replied, thinking to myself ‘Is there any difference?’

Of course, it depends. What is your mindset when you go out for drinks (or attend a chamber of commerce event or a leads group meeting or some other gathering of like-minded business professionals)? Sure, you could just show up, grab a drink and a snack, and then make your escape, but what would be the sense of that? I’m a big believer that if you’re making the effort to get out and about, whether it’s one-on-one or in a small group, at least attempt to engage others in conversation. You might be surprised at the connections you make, the information you gather, and even the relationships you establish.

Think about how you’ve developed relationships in the past.

  • How did you meet your spouse or significant other?
  • How did you meet your friends, your business partner, your top clients?

Probably, the seeds for these and similar other relationships germinated over dinner, a glass of wine, or at some event—a form of “social” networking done old school style.

Anytime we engage with someone else—socially, collegially, professionally, whether it’s over wine or at a BBQ or at a business meeting—we are participating in a form of networking. Just what results from these encounters is up to us. For instance, when you attend a networking event, what signals do you send when you sit quiet and alone, waiting for others to approach you? Now think of what kind of signals you send when you take the initiative and join in?

Happy New Year from Barrel O Monkeyz = Drink Responsibly

You get the idea. Consider these icebreakers to get conversations started:

Ask others . . .

  • about theirbusinesses and what they do
  • what brings them to this particular event
  • how they got involved in their particular line of work or profession
  • where they went to college or got their training
  • what trends they see going forward in their industry
  • if they’ve ever heard the featured guest or speaker at a particular event before

Notice that these questions are all about them. That’s important, because relationships aren’t all about you. They are a two-way street. Be prepared to respond with your own answers to these or similar questions, and once the ice is broken, what comes next is all about what’s possible—perhaps the start of a lasting friendship, a key business relationship, or maybe it’s as simple as making (or receiving) a referral.

Whatever it is, remember it’s all good . . .  and it’s all an example of how networking can happen at any level at any time. As with most things, what you get out of it depends on what kind of effort you give—and often the pay back (or pay forward) will exceed your expectations. All that’s needed is the willingness to engage others one-on-one or in group settings and see where budding social or professional relationships might take you (and if there just happens to be a glass of wine in the mix, that’s just icing on the cake!).

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Happy Holidays from Barrel O’Monkeyz

BOM Happy Holidays 2014

I hope everyone is as excited for the holidays as this puppy!

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The Barrel O’Monkeyz 2014 Think “Outside the Gift Box” Holiday Gift List

With holiday shopping, it’s never too late until—well—it’s too late! So, instead of stressing over what to give and battling crowds at the mall, and with available shopping days dwindling to a precious few, check out these offerings of unique products and/or gift certificates for that special someone in your life.

BOM Happy Holidays

  1. Huntington’s Disease Society Of America (HDSA)—Help the HDSA improve the lives of people with Huntington’s disease and their families with these holiday gift ideas. http://www.hdsa.org/shop/hdsa-products/250/holiday-store.html
  2. Ground-Base Nutrition—As their motto, “Nature’s Best…Nothing Less,” suggests, this leader in natural food supplements uses the highest quality whole food ingredients straight from Mother Earth. https://www.ground-based.com/
  3. Plastic Clothing—Begun in 1999 to make better apparel and accessories for volleyball, Plastic Gear has grown into a must-have for athletes who demand performance, comfort, and style. http://www.plasticclothing.com/
  4. Gobie H20—Shark Tank calls their eco-friendly alternatives to single-use water bottles “the sexiest water bottle on the market.” See why at http://www.gobieh2o.com/.
  5. Splash of Passion—This year-round ranching operation invites horse riders to experience the peace and quiet of Pine Valley Meadow . . . “the way the West was!” http://splashofpassion.us/
  6. ZoicTech-blended comfort and great customer interaction for cyclists and hikers. http://www.zoic.com/
  7. X1 Audio—Full line of sport headphones, waterproof headphones, sweatproof headphones, waterproof iPhone cases, and more. http://www.x-1.com/
  8. Cl!ck Carabiners—This brilliantly designed and useful utility tool makes a perfect stocking stuffer or small gift for the skier/snowboarder in your life. http://www.clickcarabiner.com/
  9. Red Mountain—Located in Rossland, BC, this last great, unspoiled resort features 2,877 in-bound acres of pristine skiing unfettered by overdevelopment. http://www.redresort.com/
  10. Tribal Snowtools—Packable, feather-light and super-strong carbon composite performance tools that enhance the backcountry, sidecountry, and freeride experience for skiers and snowboarders. http://tribalsnowtools.com/

Got your own items to add to this list, or ideas on how to “think outside the gift box” this holiday season? Let others know by sharing your ideas and experiences here.

Happy Holidays to ALL!

It pushes the envelope a bit, but this SNL video short
has become a true ‘Holiday Classic.’ Enjoy!

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Time Flies

They say time flies when you’re having fun. And for me, 2014 has been a blast.

On the personal front, I got engaged, got married, and just a couple of weeks ago welcomed home baby Lee.

Professionally, I’ve been hard at work with Barrel O’ Monkeyz, helping clients build their brand stories while I’ve been refreshing my own with a new website, a fantastic new team, and renewed energy.

Even the Holidays haven’t seemed to be able to slow things down this year. Seems like Halloween just came and went and then we were on to Thanksgiving—and in just a little over two weeks it’ll be Christmas and then New Year’s, and pretty soon the first quarter will be over!

Whew. It’s almost enough to make your head spin.

Last November I explored whether or not time actually speeds up as we get older. The good news is that it doesn’t speed up—not really anyway. It’s all a matter of perception. Of course, as we marketers and entrepreneurs know, perception is reality. So while time may not actually speed up, we feel as though it speeds up as we hurry along our daily lives.

It seems that as we get older, the sheer number of events we’ve experienced over a lifetime begin to lose their distinction from one another, making the minutes, hours, and days seem to streak by in a blur.

What can we do about it? Apparently, there’s lots we can do to slow the hands of time. Here’s that blog again. It’s hard to believe more than a year has passed since I wrote it . . . Enjoy!

BOM Time Flies

A Matter of Time

(Originally posted on November 13, 2013)

WOW. Is it really already mid-November? With the Thanksgiving feast looming, Turkeys everywhere are scattering.

These days it seems as though every year goes by more quickly. I guess our parents were right when they said time goes faster as you get older. Looking back at the previous 11 months—heck the last 2 or 3 years—it’s hard for me to argue with them. “2013 where did you go? I hardly knew you!”

So does time actually speed up?

Albert Einstein theorized that time is relative, and scientific observation and experiment routinely support his notion. And while Einstein was almost certainly more concerned with the physical properties of time, I’m sure he would be relieved to know that I (and others) agree with him when it comes to our perception of time as well. Its seems that’s relative, too.

When we’re young, everything is a first—first day of school, first date, first car, first job, etc.—and all of these firsts hold distinct places in our memories. Remember those summer vacations off from school, the days at the beach, biking with your best friends, playing ball? Those times seemed endless, didn’t they? Now think back to your most recent vacation. It probably seemed to come and go in a flash.

As we get older our lives get filled with more and more clutter, a series of indistinct, repetitive events and activities that fill our days and nights. Do you remember your 27th birthday? Unless you did something super special, it’s probably hard to distinguish it from your 26th or 28th . . . or even your 33rd. Time seems to get compressed between such indistinct events and we perceive the days and years as flying by.

Time flies in these dazzling time-lapse
videos from National Geographic

This past summer, the New York Times ran an article on how we experience time as we get older. It’s a fascinating and entertaining read, and a bit reassuring. No, it seems, we older folks aren’t suffering from some collective malady after all, nor are we the victims freaky time-related phenomena best discussed by quantum physicists or fodder for the latest Sci Fi Channel movie of the week.

Studies cited in the article found several distinct reasons for why young and old perceive the passage of time differently:

  • Our emotionsaffect how we perceive time. When we are afraid or fearful, time seems to pass more slowly. Makes sense, doesn’t it? As kids, more than likely we experienced a lot of our firsts with a bit of anxiety. Even now, the good times always seem to fly by, while the bad ones seem to take forever.
  • Attention and memoryalso play a big part in how we perceive time. To gauge time accurately requires the ability to focus and remember, so it stands to reason that as our lives get more hectic as adults—well, the days seem to pass in a blur.
  • Similarly, as the mental demandsof tasks grow, we perceive the duration of those tasks to be longer. In other words, learning new things—and when we are youngsters everything is new—slows down our internal sense of time. As we get older, we tend to do repetitive tasks—at home, at work, at play—and the days, the weeks, the years tend to run into another.

The author of the article, Richard A. Friedman, concludes that “if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.”

Sure sounds like great advice to me!

In today’s world, when everything from entertainment to what we should think about certain issues of the day is spoon-fed to us, we really don’t pay that much attention, nor do we expend much mental energy, because we don’t have to. Our minds have become lazy and dulled . . . and time slips by faster and faster.

The real answer to slowing down the passage of time, it seems, isn’t to “stop and smell the roses,” but to start using our time more wisely:

  • Do something different for the upcoming holidays.
  • Learn a new skill or hobby.
  • Start a new business.
  • Embark on a new career.
  • Go somewhere different this weekend.
  • Shake things up a bit and do something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
  • Make a new friend.

The possibilities are endless, while time is not. I figure I’ve only got so many days on this globe, so I aim to make the most of each tick-tock. Anyone read a good “how-to” book lately?

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The RIGHT to Win! Do you have the Right?

When a pro athlete takes the field—whether it’s Aaron Rogers staring down Darrelle Revis, Giancarlo Stanton facing off against Clayton Kershaw, or Serena Williams or Venus Williams going head to head with another tennis elite—each competitor has both the ability and the expectation of achieving success given the talents and track record he or she brings to the table. Sure, all contestants can’t come out on top all of the time, but over time winners establish their ability—their RIGHT—to win consistently.

BOM_Right-to-Win

The same goes for businesses. Just like sports, there are winners and losers, star performers and underperformers and everyone in between, plus lots and lots of stiff competition. In sports as well as in business, from the CEO to the frontline staff, each person comes to the “arena” with a standard set of tools and the acumen necessary to compete. Each comes with the right to win, and they don’t get there by accident. They work hard. They’re good at what they do, and they have to adapt to changing circumstances, rules, and competitive pressures or they don’t stick around for long.

But having the right to win and actually winning are two vastly different things. Just ask any member of the Oakland Raiders football team. Now ask the New England Patriots. Each team has the right to win, but only one wins consistently nowadays.

What’s the difference?

Talent for sure, but in sports just like in business, there’s a fine line between being a star performer and being solid but unspectacular. Desire plays a role, no doubt, as does mental toughness, and having a winning attitude. Such attributes are all part of what one might call a winning team “culture” or, in business, a winning “corporate culture.”

Companies (or teams) that win consistently put themselves, time and again, in situations that give them the greatest right to win. They have the mindset of being winners, and the desire and the talent to do what it takes to get there.

Apple is a good example of a company that has exercised its right to win. All but left for dead after Microsoft surged to the lead in the PC wars of the 1990s, Apple persevered and innovated its way back into contention by the early 2000s. All along, Steve Jobs knew Apple had the right to win; it was all a matter of his company earning the victory . . . and he did so by guiding Apple to out-innovate and outperform its competitors.

Apple achieved success by aligning what it did well and what made it different from other technology companies with a clearly defined target audience, hungry for its products and services. Along the way, Apple was pressured to let others build software for its hardware; it was pressured to let others build hardware for its software; and it was ridiculed for not allowing adobe flash video to play on its smartphones and tablets. But for Apple, winning was all about maintaining control and maintaining the quality of its products in line with customer expectations, all the while adapting to changes in technology and, in many cases, pioneering new technologies. The results speak for themselves.

By holding true to its vision, corporate culture, and underlying principles, Apple has become the most highly-value company in history, at last report nearing the $700 billion mark . . . and that’s a win in anyone’s book.

In sports, this kind of discipline is called focus—the kind of focus necessary to hit a tiny round ball with a thin wooden bat, or for a quarterback to execute under duress as the pocket collapses around him. It’s the kind of focus and drive that separates talented “high potential” athletes from the talented winners.

Which are you—a high potential or a winner?

  • Do you align your talents and vision with what your customers want most?
  • Do you innovate and adapt to changes in the marketplace?
  • Are you able to tell your brand story in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd and connects with your target customers emotionally?
Good Companies Make You Think.
Great Companies Make You Feel.

Remember, like any business you have the RIGHT to win, but so, too do your competitors. How will you stand out? How will you compete?

You can start by working with Barrel O’Monkeyz to tell your brand story in a way that gives your company the greatest right to win.

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Happy Thanksgiving

A few years ago, as Thanksgiving approached, I wrote a blog about gratitude, service to others, and living life with enthusiasm. I think I’ve re-run that blog every year since, thinking there’s not much more to say. It’s become sort of a Thanksgiving blogging tradition.

And yet, this year I feel compelled to say a little bit more, seeing where I’ve got so much to be grateful for these days: a loving wife, a brand new baby daughter, professional success, and the unconditional love of family and friends. I am truly blessed.

That said, the only thing I would add is that we should be grateful for what is yet to come. You see, I truly believe that we make our own futures and that gratitude for what we have leads to even more for which we can be grateful down the road—not just material things, mind you, but those things that really matter, such as relationships and love.

Try it. Be grateful, be positive, be loving, and be helpful. A recipe for a life well lived doesn’t get much simpler (or better) than that.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

BoM Happy Thanksgiving

A Winning Combination: Gratitude and Service to Others

(Originally posted on November 22, 2011 by Paul June)

This time of year, people tend to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays that they are often unable to enjoy them. Are you one of these people? How about switching things up this year?

As a starter, I invite you to hop off the post-Halloween holiday treadmill, take a deep breath, consider those things in life for which you are grateful, and ask how you could better serve others.

I always start by acknowledging how grateful I am to be alive, knowing how quickly one’s hold on life and good health can change. Of course, I could then think about how my Mom and Dad are not with me, that my sister and niece have long since left me, that my start-up company and dreams were destroyed by corporate America, or how hard the recession has hit my pocket book and let such reflection get me down . . . but I choose not to. I choose to look at my “cup” as being half-full and, what’s more, as being twice too big to begin with!

Here are some of the things for which I am most grateful . . .

  • Being born and raised in the God-blessed USA
  • A roof over my head
  • Food on the table
  • Credit cards with revolving balances
  • Clothes on my back
  • Having family and friends who love me
  • Knowing love
  • Laughter
  • A positive outlook
  • Strong faith
  • Being able to fit into size 34-inch jeans
  • My surgically repaired shoulder being better
  • Being able to walk, smell, and see the glories around us
  • Being well-educated.
This funny commercial is no turkey!

The bottom line is we all want to matter in this world. We all want to be significant. How we matter and how we are significant can vary. We all can’t be chiefs, and that’s OK. Sometimes we just need to embrace being servants. But whatever the role, chief or servant, we need to approach our lives with enthusiasm.

I challenge you to attack life with a positive attitude. It’s a choice of attitude and perspective, which takes tremendous energy to maintain (staying enthusiastic through good times and bad is hard work!), but reaps many gifts over the long haul.

So in that vein, let’s choose to serve each other this holiday season—asking for nothing in return—and let’s do it with zeal! Giving without asking is a wonderful thing, and something for which we can all be grateful.

A good place to start is to make your own list of things for which you are grateful, and then to help others expand their lists.

For what are you most thankful? Share it here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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